Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, as the economy reopens, more and more people are abandoning their home offices for their real ones. With homes left unattended and package theft on the rise, should you consider installing a home security system? If so, which one? Over the last few months, my colleagues and I have set up and tested out all of the major home security systems on the market, and we found that they were effective in preventing home invasions, for the most part. However, it’s important to pick a system that’s right for your home and family. With so many factors like equipment, monitoring, video storage and costs, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to home security. Fortunately, we’ve done all the work to help you pick out the perfect system for your home.
Home Burglary Statistics
During the past 25 years, crime has decreased continuously in the United States since its early 1990s peak. In fact, between 1993 and 2018, property crime fell by over 53. However, that doesn’t mean home burglaries are a thing of the past. In 2015, there were 1.5 million burglaries resulting in $3.6 billion of losses, an average loss of $2,316, if you’re wondering. And residential properties were the most common properties burglarized, accounting for 71.6% of all burglaries.
Plus, package theft is on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began. From May 17th to the 23rd alone, it’s estimated that one in five households in the United States has had packages stolen from their homes in the past three months. So even though property crime is decreasing overall since the 1990s, that’s no reason to leave your home unprotected.
How Effective Are Home Security Systems?
Let’s jump back to the first question: do home security systems effectively protect homes? The answer is yes, according to the United States Department of Justice. Consider this: the most common method of entry for burglars is to damage or remove a door or window, which happens in about 70% of all home burglaries. Therefore, WiFi-connected devices like door/ window sensors, motion sensors, and glass break sensors can set off local alarms and even notify the user via the system’s mobile application if a door or window has been opened or closed. On top of that, indoor and outdoor cameras could provide evidence of the break-in, which could help greatly in a criminal investigation.
Another study from the University of North Carolina and the Alarm Industry Research & Education Foundation surveyed over 400 convicted burglars about their tactics. 83% of the survey’s respondents said that before they attempted a burglary, they would see if there were alarm systems in place; if they found one or evidence of one, 60% would choose another home to rob. As for burglars who found an alarm system mid-burglary, half would give up completely while a little over a third would retreat. All in all, only 13% of the burglars said that they’d continue with the burglary attempt after finding an alarm system. Aside from the systems themselves, burglars also took into consideration factors like traffic, escapes routes, security signs, and dogs when choosing a home to target. Even something as cheap as an $8 security sign could lead burglars to choose another house, according to the survey.
Home Security Systems: What To Look For
Aside from being effective burglary deterrents, home security systems can also provide peace of mind. If you’re just starting your search to find the perfect home security system, here are a few things to consider:
- House size: How big is your home? We recommend putting door/ window sensors on every door and window on the ground level of your home, so that’s a good place to start, but note that these days, most of the systems are scalable, meaning you can buy add-on equipment as time goes on.
- Budget: Keep in mind the bottom line for your equipment, monitoring and storage costs. What are you willing to pay monthly or yearly after the initial investment? While some companies require monthly or annual fees, others will let you get away with just paying the upfront costs for the equipment.
- Monitoring: When it comes to home security monitoring, there are two main choices, self-monitoring or professional monitoring. With a security system that connects to WiFi, users will typically be able to livestream footage, receive notifications if motion or a person is detected, and control their systems remotely through their respective mobile applications. Some companies offer 24/7 professional monitoring, which means that a team of people will also be notified if any alarms go off and can call emergency services for the user if needed. For the most protection, we recommend signing up for 24/7 professional monitoring, although it typically costs a monthly or yearly fee. For traditional companies like ADT, that fee can cost anywhere from $40 to $60 monthly.
- Backup: If the power goes out in your neighborhood, you want to make sure that your security system stays on. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, be it through a back-up battery, landline backup or cellular backup, so keep that in mind as you search for a home security system.
- Installation: Most security systems now offer DIY installation through a guided setup process in the app. However, some companies either offer or require professional installation, typically for a fee of around $100. Alder Security, for example, is a company that lets users choose between DIY or professional installation; our experts opted for DIY and didn’t encounter any problems.
- Ease of use: How easy is the system to set up and use on a daily basis? To find out, read reviews from people that have actually tested the systems out.
- Smart home integrations: Nowadays, you can use voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant to control your security system hands-free, with commands like “Alexa, show my front door camera on my Echo Show!”. Many security systems also work with Internet of Things, or IoT devices from third-party companies, allowing for some convenient home automation, like having your smart thermostat turn down whenever your system is armed. If you’re already in the Amazon or Google smart home ecosystem, try to find a security system that integrates with your voice assistant and existing IoT devices.
- Quality of components: Not all security systems are created equal, especially in terms of the quality of their equipment. There’s a ton of variation depending on the company, especially when it comes to security cameras and video doorbells. Again, this is another area where reading reviews will help out tremendously.
- Privacy and security: Ironically, quite a few smart security companies have had data breaches over the past year, from the Amazon-owned Ring to the Google-owned Nest. Research the company beforehand to see if they’ve had a history of protecting customer data or not. Look for companies that require passwords and have digital security features like two or multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access to your account.
- Customer support: Last but certainly not least is the dreaded customer support, which again, varies greatly from company to company. Take into consideration both the ways you can reach customer support, i.e phone, email, online form, etc., as well as how current or former customers feel about their support experiences.
Choosing a system to protect your home and family can be daunting, especially with the sheer amount of options available. But no matter whether you’re back in your regular office or still working from your couch at home, there’s a customizable system that’s right for you.